Blair urges teaching of tolerance

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Published: Sunday 15th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Young people need an education that will given them an “open-minded” view of the world, Tony Blair has said.

The former Labour prime minister said that in the modern world, youngsters are influenced by what they hear and see outside the classroom, and intolerance needs to be confronted wherever it is found.

He also suggested that it is important that even if youngsters are taught in a faith school, that they learn about other religions and cultures.

Mr Blair was speaking during a session on world education at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

Asked whether, in general, faith schools can lead to greater segregration, Mr Blair said: “That’s a very good question, and it’s one I ask myself often because faith schools are a big part of the UK system, a lot of people like to educate their children in those schools because sometimes they have a stronger ethos, a stronger kind of grounding in values and so on.

“I think what I would say is faith schools only work if they’re also integrated in the education system, it’s very important that young people, even if they’re taught in a school of a particular faith, are taught about other faiths, are taught in what I would say is a constructive way”

He went on: “This question of what I call education for the open mind, is really, really important now”.

“When I was growing up in the North East of England, you know everyone was basically, white,” Mr Blair said. “We had a very small ethnic minority population. I actually remember the day I met my first African. I was 12 years old. It was a big thing for me, because we were brought up in a very homogenous self-contained community, everyone was the same.”

Mr Blair said that his 14-year-old son is exposed to a wide range of cultures and faiths.

“That’s the way the world is now,” he said.

“Personally, I like this world. I find it refreshing, but it does mean that in your education of young people, you’ve got to be educating them that someone may be a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Hindu but actually, here’s what we share in common.”

Earlier, the forum had heard discussions about how and why educated young people from developed economies become radicalised, such as the three teenage schoolgirls from east London who flew to Turkey last month to try to join Isis in Syria.

Asked about the issue, Mr Blair said: “Unfortunately, you know we’re all talking about education in the classroom, but people don’t just get educated nowadays in the classroom. They’re taking influences from all sorts of different quarters, from the internet, from informal education systems”.

He added that wherever intolerance is found “you’ve got to go out and confront it”.

Mr Blair also told the Forum about the difficulties he faced during his time as Prime Minister in making major reforms to areas like education.

“When you begin in government, you have this rather naive view.”

He recalled being at the Cabinet table in 10 Downing Street at the start of his tenure, where the only chair with arms is the one belonging to the Prime Minister, saying “you can get the idea that you’re an important guy.”

“I had this naive view that if I sat there and said that something should happen then actually something would happen.

“After I time I learnt that this isn’t how it works at all. The system, and government, is brilliant at managing the status quo. Where government is weak is in changing the status quo.”

Published: Sunday 15th March 2015 by The News Editor

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